February 11: Sympathy, humanity

I wonder how Finance Minster Yair Lapid would fare if suddenly, without any preparation, he were told he had to go and sit in a yeshiva for three years.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Also-ran nation
Sir, – With regard to “Public hospital staffs plan sanctions today in sympathy with Hadassah employees” (February 9), if our government did not give free and indefinite credit to the Palestinian Authority, perhaps it would have the funds necessary to enable Hadassah to operate effectively without deficits.
Doctors and other members of the staff could be paid the same salaries as in other Israeli hospitals instead of being asked to bear financial responsibility for a significant part of a deficit that has been allowed to build up over the past five or six years.
Instead, we see why some of the best physicians and medical researchers are being driven to leave the country.
So much for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s idle boast of Israel being a technological start-up nation. On the evidence of the way his government has been handling Hadassah’s financial crisis, we have become a technological also-ran nation.
Sympathy, humanity
Sir, – I wonder how Finance Minster Yair Lapid would fare if suddenly, without any preparation, he were told he had to go and sit in a yeshiva for three years, studying Torah non-stop in a very closeted and sheltered environment (“Lapid vows to quit coalition if sanctions are not passed against all draft-dodgers,” February 9). Eventually, he probably would need psychiatric attention, as would we all if placed in such a situation so suddenly.
My point is that while I’m all for yeshiva students to serve in the army, perhaps this can be achieved in a more humane way.
Otherwise, they, too, might end up requiring psychiatric attention.
First, prepare them. Ensure that these boys are getting regular exercise. Have sympathetic IDF personnel address them at 17 (i.e., a year before induction) and explain what is in store.
Explain the options that will be available (i.e., that they can serve in non-combat units).
Ensure that their teachers, the rabbis, also prepare them in whatever way they feel would ensure an enlistment that is not so traumatic.
A little bit of sympathy and humanity will go a long way in achieving these aims to the benefit of all concerned.
Intolerable situation
Sir, – “The US applauded Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s strong message of support for Secretary of State John Kerry, whom he called a ‘true friend to Israel...,’” you report in “US: Liberman’s support of Kerry sends out a powerful message” (February 9). It certainly did send a message.
It said that so long as you are an advocate of ridding Israel of its Jews, you are a friend of America.
Same goes for Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who is also anxious to give up our land (“Kerry praises Lapid’s ‘courageous’ talk on peace, February 7). So, too, for Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, who has failed in everything she has done in relation to our security but of course is the darling of Kerry and President Barack Obama, having been resurrected by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to negotiate a deal enabling terrorists to take over our heartland.
This situation is intolerable, humiliating and incomprehensible.
Mutual civility needed
Sir, – Regarding “Pardes Institute encourages Jews to engage in ‘constructive conflict’ for new Adar holiday” (February 9), all would agree that shalom bayit (peace in the house of Israel) is urgently needed. However, to use the pursuit of peace in order to create a new holiday one day a year in “constructive conflict” sounds a little naive.
Conflict resolution is a complex undertaking and positive results are not easily guaranteed. The schools of Hillel and Shammai are cited as negative examples, and someone dug up that 3,000 Jews were killed as a consequence of halachic differences between their students.
The Babylonian Talmud, however, relates just the opposite (see tractate Yevamot 13b and 14b).
We learn there that collegiality always existed among the students of Hillel and Shammai. Their children married each other, and they found it possible to borrow kitchen utensils from each other.
The Talmud tractate Eruvin 13b concludes that the differing opinions of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai are “the words of the living God.”
Today we live in the Google age of instant information. Alas, we are far from achieving instant peace among ourselves. Perhaps the first step is to introduce mutual civility in our daily activities.
His primary legacy
Sir, – Irving Spitz writes in “Feasts for the eye and mind” (February 9) that “Herod’s main legacy lies in his massive building projects.” No, Herod’s main legacy is that he was a mass murderer, Hellenist and trickster tyrant.
True, he built the Temple, amphitheaters and other structures, but he undid the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, restored Hellenism and was the reason the Romans so totally wrecked us.
Bnei Brak
Matter of priorities
Sir, – Your article concerning the film The Monuments Men (“Men on a mission,” Arts & Entertainment, February 9) reports on a special Allied military unit sent into battle zones to protect historic buildings, churches and monuments during World War II. The unit was established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
By any objective measure, this might have been considered a diversion of the effort to defeat the Nazis, and it calls to mind the repeated refusal of the Allies to bomb the railway lines leading to Auschwitz, a distance of five minutes’ flying time from military targets.
It was the very same president who decided that bombing Auschwitz would divert from the war effort.
The philosophy of this film is described as saving not just paintings hanging on museum walls, but “the fabric of our culture.”
One has to conclude that saving priceless art took precedence over saving the lives of tens of thousand of human beings.
They don’t understand
Sir, – In “Excluding Judaism from Israeli discourse not just academic” (iEngage, January 7), Daniel Statman recounts that in light of an op-ed he had written on the subject, he was approached by colleagues from various universities here to help organize a petition protesting the government’s policy on African migrants.
The op-ed had been strongly influenced by Torah and Jewish tradition regarding “the stranger,” but to Statman’s dismay the additions in this spirit that he, a professor of philosophy at the University of Haifa, made to the draft resolution were utterly rejected by all but one colleague.
This reminded me of the late Prof. David Patterson, founder and president of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Yarnton Manor in the UK (1972-91), whose words, I recall, were to the effect that this was the generation that threw away a tradition it had not even begun to understand.
Interesting points
Sir, – “Supreme Court set to reject Abutbul’s appeal” (February 6) raises two interesting points: 1. After the police found 161 identity cards in the hands of hardi election activists, the court appeal by Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul saying there was insufficient evidence to justify new elections must be a new record for chutzpah.
2. The public deserves an explanation from the responsible legal official as to why no prosecution has been instituted in connection with the election fraud represented by the 161 identity cards.
Beit Zayit